A Year Gone By

We continue to prepare to celebrate our first year without Catie in our lives.  It doesn’t even sound right – how can anyone celebrate a year without someone, unless it was someone they didn’t love and want in their lives; but then why celebrate that? The what, how and whys of this celebration only seem to make sense to me when we look at the – WHO we are celebrating.  We are celebrating Catie.  What are we celebrating?  In a small way, we are celebrating that we have not only survived but in many ways thrived throughout this past year.

There were so many days immediately after Catie’s death that joining her in death seemed like a good idea but not for the right reasons.  God has a plan for each of our lives and only He decides when it is time.  Until He decides our time is up, it is up to us to live our lives to the fullest and for Him.  We each hold our own personal memories of Catie; something we did with just her.  Many nights either Mia or Maggie shared a room with Catie.  What did they talk about before they went to sleep; they each hold those memories in their hearts.  Catie and Max often played together outside riding their bikes or jumping with their scooters.  Each child had one week of their own with Catie down at St. Jude and those are special memories and there are special photos for each of them.  We remember the little moments with Catie – her birth and the seven birthdays that we were blessed to celebrate, listening to her voice as she sang wherever she was, witnessing Catie learn and teach her younger sisters what she had learned and  being privileged to hear her prayers for those she loved.

With all of these wonderful memories of Catie we miss her and long to be with her but that is only part of Catie’s story.  The other part of Catie’s story was the pain and the waiting in the hospital, watching Catie finally sleep again after days and nights of pain, seeing her strength, listening to the change in her prayers as she asked God to heal her and bring her home (we never asked but always assumed that she meant to our home, but will never know) and knowing how much she protected us from because she loved us.  In death Catie was healed of all of this.  Catie can now walk; Catie can now see; what a vision Heaven must be!  Catie can sing with all the angels – they better know the words.  Almost one year later we know that Catie is with us all still.  We have felt her presence.  We have heard how so many of your prayers to her have been answered – thank you for sharing them with us and taking them to her.  Has it been easy? No. Is it over? It isn’t meant to end because Catie has reached Heaven and she lives on with God forever in eternity.   So where are we?

As a couple we are reunited.  We have been renewed and strengthened.  Ask either of us and we both would say that we are more in love and love the other more now than we ever thought possible.  We both have tremendous respect for what the other was able to do to hold their part of our family together during the six months apart.  We have grown spiritually closer to God as a couple and thank Him for the blessing and gift of the other and our marriage.  That is not to say that we do not fight or continue to grieve – we do.  We are not perfect yet.

As a family was are all back under one roof.  We have been tested and we all realize that this model works best for us – all of us and each of us.  We spend more time doing things all together.  We spend more time hugging and holding each other.  We spend more time telling each other that we love each other.  We also spend more time praying for one another.  We still are not perfect.  The kids still do the crazy things that kids do that drive us crazy as parents.  We do our best to love them, guide them, forgive them and move on and each day still has its challenges.  Here we are not perfect either but we as a family remain prayerful.

The Fab 5 are well.  They all did well in school and that is always a comfort to parents.  They each have struggled and communicated what they have felt and continue to do so openly.  In the past few days both of the younger girls have been playing on their own and with their dolls.  They discuss cancer, tumors, wheelchairs, death and what happens after death.  They each have concluded that while God is there and has a plan – something we are certain they have heard us say – “He keeps it a secret so it must be a REALLY GOOD plan.” The awesome faith of a child!!!

We will be attending Mass at St. Columbkill in Boyertown, PA on Sunday, January24th at 10:30am and then we as a family will drive to Calvary Cemetery and visit Catie’s grave.  The kids want to bring something purple.  So we will be bringing purple flower petals and Holy Water.  On Monday we will be attending Mass for Catie at 9am at St. Joseph’s in Mechanicsburg, PA.  There is no book on how to handle this day, no guide, no right or wrong and yet it is a day when in many ways our lives changed forever and our faith and belief in God was tested.  What we are celebrating is that this beautiful child was given to us – not just our family – but all of us and after seven short years we witnessed her death.  We still long to hold her; to have a physical connection with her and yet it is only through our faith in Christ’s Resurrection that Catie exists outside of our memories.

Today at Mass, Father Brommer spoke about the Ark of the Covenant – what it contained, why it was important and where it was located.  Never knowing what it contained it was an interesting homily.  The ARK contained the original Ten Commandments (2 stone tablets), Aaron’s staff and manna.  Until Christ came it held the only tangible gifts from the hand of God to His people.  Now through the life, death and resurrection of Christ we no longer need to hold on to the Ark; as Christ gives us His body and blood every day at every Mass that is celebrated.  If we hold in our beliefs that Christ conquered death in His Resurrection then through our baptism and life in Christ we too do not die but live on in eternity with God.

What then shall we say?  Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not!  How can we who died to sin yet live in it?  Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.  We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.  For a dead person has been absolved from sin.  If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.   We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.  As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God.  Consequently, you too must think yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

(Roman 6: 1-11)

How can you join us?  Join us for either of the Masses or join us in prayer from wherever you are.  Pray for all those who do not have the support that you provide us with each day.  Pray for the children that Catie’s wished to take care of; those fighting for their lives at St. Jude and other Children Hospitals around the world.  Pray for the families who have lost a child and are still actively grieving that they may find comfort.  Pray for the doctors, nurses, staff and researchers who sacrifice so much of their lives to care for critically ill children.  Pray for yourself and your family that you remain faithful to God and His divine will for your lives.

God is good all the time,

Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Mia, Molly, M.E., and always Catie

PS –  Please continue to pray for all of our dear friends from St. Jude – the doctors, nurses and staff that support the patients and families.  Please pray for all who have asked for our prayers and please add to your prayers Baby Amelia, Baby Coco, Connor, Parker, and Oliver, all who are new to our prayer list and in need of our prayers.

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